This has been quite a little labor of love. Thanks for your support and feedback, GentleReader—and thanks to everyone in the ML fandom family, for just being awesome. Hope ya'll enjoy a (relatively) new fan's take on these iconic and beloved characters.
"You don't think we're right for each other."
Not right for each other—not right for each other? Where had she been for the past three years? He wondered if there'd been a mix-up and Maddie'd had her brain bleached the last time she visited the hairdresser instead of those distinctive tresses she was so fond of. Well, he liked them too, to be honest. A lot.
If there was anything David Addison was certain of in this life, the fact that they were made for each other was it. That and the fact that he wasn't going to like where this conversation went—not when she was fixing him with a look, that look, to be precise. It was the patronizing boss-lady look, the of-course-you-simpleton look.
"No, David, I don't." Light, matter-of-fact…she was adding up a column in her records as if the conversation was of little consequence, as if he had just come into her office to bug her and avoid work in the process, as if they hadn't spent the last three weeks 'christening' every single solitary inch of her 9,000 square-foot mansion.
He could tell she was avoiding looking him in the eye, too.
You want to play that game, Goldilocks? I can play that game. Hell, I practically invented that game.
He leaned back on her mauve sofa, lifting his arms behind his neck lazily, the pinnacle of nonchalance. If she noticed how little her words seemed to affect him, she gave no indication.
"You want to know what I think?"
"Why do I have the feeling this is a rhetorical question?"
As it was usually the best course of action when wading through waist-high Maddie-sarcasm, he trudged on.
"I think that it's wrong for us not to be together."
She looked up from the reports she was needlessly shuffling around on her desk with a perfectly measured mix of incredulity and outrage.
"Oh, you do?"
"Yeah, I do."
Something about the way David said it, that combined with the blasé flippancy he exuded with every fiber of his being, made her snap.
"Well, luckily for me, it doesn't really matter what you think about the subject," She said, sharply, standing with a surprising burst of manic energy that made David jump ever so slightly.
"There's a change of pace."
"This is my life." She paced up and down behind her desk, slapping a one delicate hand into the other with exactness. "My life, my decisions, David."
"Yeah, yeah—'me me me.' I think we've played this scene before. When was that again?" Once he saw her nostrils flare he knew he had her. It was the beginning of the Maddie Hayes slow burn—that little moment in their arguments when she first began to see red. Once he got her started, it didn't matter where this went—he knew it would be worth it. "Oh, yeah—right before 'me me me' became 'we we we.' I never knew you spoke French, by the way."
"Stop it, David." Mount St. Maddie was bubbling up now. Sometimes he thought he could practically feel the heat from the magma bubbling beneath her surface.
"Stop what?" He leaned farther back, voice full of an innocent curiosity that was deliberately and unabashedly phony.
It had the immediate desired effect.
"Stop that. Stop being glib. Stop trying to-to-" He watched her try to describe exactly what he was doing (or was it what he wasn't doing?) with undisguised glee. "To rile me up. That's what you always do! You goad me into playing this little game of yours."
"I don't try to rile you up." Liar, an irritating little voice in his head taunted. It sounded suspiciously like his own."Is it my fault if you rile yourself up?"
"And what does that mean?"
"Meaning, Ms. Hayes, that it is not my problem the subject of sexual intercourse fills you with a near physical discomfort—"
"I'm comfortable talking about sex. I've always been comfortable talking about sex!" Maddie marched around the desk, looking for all the world as though she were about to snap the taupe ceramic paperweight on her desk in half.
I never had a problem talking about it before I met you.
"Really? Because I seem to recall once being thrown bodily out of the Beemer mid-discussion because someone was bothered by a bit of slang, a touch of parlance, a smidgen of sexual vernacular—"
"You make it sound as though we were having an academic discussion!"
He quickly decided to steer the conversation out of these familiar waters. That was the best way to spar with her—change directions enough and Maddie would be so dizzy he'd have her thinking left was right, bees were bears, and that his way was hers.
"If you don't have a problem talking about sex, Maddie, then something else must've gotten you all hot and bothered." He stretched and rose from the sofa before leering appreciatively. "Was it me?"
"Why you insufferable, miserable, rodent—of course it was you!"
She knew she had walked into a pit trap the second the words left her mouth. Damn him, he always knew how to make her mouth run off…usually without her brain.
Her statement hung awkwardly in the air for a moment or two, before—
"…Tell me why we're not right for each other."
That was the thing about David, she thought, blinking in surprise. The one thing you could be certain about with him was that he would surprise you.
"You heard me. Tell me why we're wrong for each other." David had dropped his "high school locker-room grin" for something equally opaque—his own personal brand of sobriety, the intensity he always demonstrated when something he really cared about was on the line. His green eyes were practically boring into hers. "You're a thinker, Maddie—reason with me, here."
The ghost of a smile flickered across her face.
"You mean besides the basic lifestyle, personality, interests and hygiene incompatibility?"
"See—" He perched on the corner of her desk and grinned widely at his business partner. "You can't do it. You can't even come up with one reason."
Maddie's eyes flashed at the inherent challenge in his words, and David felt the blood drum just a little faster in his body. This was it, this was what they were made for.
This was why said things to her that when said to any other employer would get him a sexual harassment suit faster than you could say 'bikini underwear.'
"You want specifics?" She crossed her arms, as if amused that he would even have to ask. "How about the fact that I'm always five minutes early and you're always ten minutes late?"
"So you fix your makeup in the bathroom for fifteen minutes—no sweat."
It was not uncommon for Maddie to pace while talking, as she was doing now. Maybe she'd been a lawyer in another life, he thought, idly—she seemed to like the whole arguing while standing thing. It was a plus for him—anything that showed off those legs.
"Or that I look at nudes while you ogle 'nakes'?"
"That's the difference between men and women, not you and me."
She stopped midway through her third circuit around the office, sighing loudly.
"How about the fact that we're having an argument about whether or not we're right for each other, David?"
"Doesn't prove anything except that I'm right and you're wrong," he shot back, having the questionably desired effect of visibly frustrating his verbal sparring partner. Annoyed, she circled back around to her proper place at her desk, taking great care to go the long way and thus avoid walking past him.
"Thank you for clearing that up so…piquantly."
Still sitting on the corner of the desk, David found himself staring at a former model who was doing everything in her considerable power to ignore him.
"…Don't you want to hear my reasons why we're right for each other?" he finally asked, not attempting to disguise his impatience.
"Not particularly. I can guess what at least one of them will be."
"Why'd you follow me to New York?"
As soon as the words left David's mouth those cornflower blue eyes darted down—but not before he saw a lifetime's worth of emotions cross them. It was not a question she was expecting—nor, apparently, was she prepared to answer it.
"Why'd you follow me to New York?" he repeated, undeterred by her oh-so-Maddie-ish physical and verbal deflection.
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"I think it has a lot to do with everything. One has to wonder why a woman would follow her employee, a man she professes to have no feelings for whatsoever halfway across the country to go to a funeral with him."
"I never said I had no feelings for you, David," she said, in a very small voice.
"You're putting words in my mouth. I said we weren't right for each other—I never said I had no feelings for you."
"Potato, potato, Maddie. It amounts to the same thing—"
"No!" The volcano erupted and she had risen from her seat again, the towering blond inferno. "It does not 'amount to the same thing', David Addison, and you know it!" One perfectly manicured finger found his chest with the precision of a torpedo. "Hundreds of people with diametrically opposed personalities, people who have no business being within a mile of one another, let alone romantically involved, do it—every hour, of every day, of every month, of every year—and you know why?" He watched her complete the tirade as if it were the final inning of the World Series. "Feelings!"
When she was worked up, really worked up, the way she was now, David wondered how she maintained that glacial façade for the long stretches of time that she did. He was, as they say, 'burning up over here.'
"You never answered the question."
"I came to New York because I was worried about you! I was worried and I thought that if I didn't come I'd be…locked out of something." She sighed and rubbed her temples. "Oh, I don't know."
"Locked out of what?" David asked her, more gently. He hadn't been lying to her that fateful night a month ago, the night all of this began—it seemed like a lifetime ago—when he told her he wanted to know what was wrong.
He did care. Watching her sit there, fiddling with her ballpoint pen and looking so lost, it dawned on him just how much.
"Of your life," she murmured, finally. "I can't articulate it exactly, but…stupid as it sounds, I felt as though by not telling me you'd been married, you were fencing me off—"
"I haven't fenced you off."
"I'm only telling you how I felt," she snapped back, irritable at his unexpected and (in her mind) unmerited defensiveness. "Like it or not, that is how I felt."
"If anyone's doing any fencing off around here, it's you!"
"You're missing the point, Addison."
"I don't think I am. Face it, Maddie. You're the queen of fencing off—you could give U.S. border control a run for their money."
"Look who's talking—the man who thinks camping out in someone's bed is a healthy alternative to saying 'I love you.'"
"Don't change the subject!"
"I don't even know what the subject was."
"The subject was—it was—" he sputtered. "You're doing it again!"
Trying to muster as much dignity as befit the exchange, Maddie stood and hastily snatched he purse up from the desk.
"I glad we're both getting so much out of this discussion." She brushed past him towards the exit. "If you'll excuse me, I think we both have better things to be doing than—"
"That's it, go. Run away. Run away from me like you run away from life."
Maddie's hand froze on the doorknob.
"…What did you say?"
"I said that you're afraid of life, Madolyn Hayes. That's why you're running out of this room—not 'cause you've got something better to do, but because you don't have anything better to do and that scares the hell out of you."
She turned around, truly livid again. Had she a cooler head on her shoulders the ex-model might have recognized this for the heavy-handed ploy to keep her in the room that it was.
"My leaving this office," she seethed, slowly and deliberately, "has nothing to do with being afraid of life and everything to do with this being a stupid conversation."
He plowed on, ignoring her.
"Do you remember what I told you the first day we met?"
"Before or after you complimented me for my work posing in your favorite tawdry girly magazine?"
"I told you you needed me to live—and I stand by that." He strode over to meet her, full of purpose. "This whole 'we aren't right for each other' shtick has more to do with you being afraid of life than it has to do with me."
"Don't sell yourself short, David," she shot back, acidly. "It has plenty to do with you."
"It eats you up inside to think that you're crazy about a person like me—"
"—I'm not crazy about you, driven crazy by you maybe—"
"I freak you out because when you're with me, you aren't in control of every particle of minutiae—and you like it—and that scares you…" He was inching towards her, each word drawing them into a battle that was at once both intense and intimate.
"What do you know about control? You break into people's houses for fun. You follow people to restaurants. You…limbo." She was babbling, and what was worse, she knew she was babbling. It was just that he was so damn close.
The blond bombshell instinctively stepped backwards—a familiar step in the tango Maddie.
"I think you like it when I take control. You've spent so much of your life as the Queen Bee that it really blows your whistle to have someone else holding the reigns."
Somewhere in between "Queen" and "blow" Maddie felt herself being gently backed against the door. She was so preoccupied with his proximity she didn't even comment on his blatant mixing of metaphors.
"Your arrogance is simply astounding," she said, looking up at him, singularly annoyed by the fact that she had to. "Why, of all the people on earth, would I choose you to have any control over my life?"
"Hey, I never said I knew why you want me, Blondie," he smirked, fiddling absently with a stray wisp of hair, moonbeams sold separately. "I can just tell you do."
He knew he shouldn't have said it. David was endowed with the gift of being able to press her buttons like no one else—and he didn't just know what upset her the most, but how best to phrase it for the maximum effect, the most obnoxious tone to use, the most infuriating expression to assume. He had turned pissing off Maddie Hayes into high art.
It was her own fault, he always told himself, as he watched the steam rise from her chair time and again. She had no one to blame but herself.
He wouldn't do it if she didn't look so God damned beautiful when she was pissed.
"I don't want you and I don't need you, David Addison. Ever since the day we met you've taken great pleasure in inserting yourself into every aspect of my life—first it was convincing me to keep this dump open, then it was trying to tell me how to run it—first Blue Moon and then my life! And now, now that you've managed to get into my bedroom you've also gotten it into that thick skull of yours that you're the center of my universe—well, you're not, David! Just because I followed you to New York, just because you're my partner and best friend does not mean that I want anything about you—in fact, the only thing I want from you at this moment is for you to shut up!"
All at once he was kissing her, pressing her against the door with all the pent-up passion and fervency that only an argument between them could bring. She wanted him to shut up? He thought vaguely, as Maddie roughly pulled him deeper into the kiss, running her smooth hands up and down his back—he could shut up. When this was the reward, hell, he'd shut up morning, noon and night.
He'd wanted to kiss her senseless since the day he met her—and getting to do it more than a few times over the last month hadn't eased that hunger one iota. He wanted her even more, wanted to smell and taste and feel her in every possible way his well-developed imagination could come up with. It didn't take a genius to figure out that, despite her steady stream of well-phrased denials, Maddie Hayes hadn't gotten tired of this any more than he had.
Needing to breathe, they pulled apart, David's hands still possessively spanning her waist. There was an awkward moment where the two simply stared at each other. Frozen in place, not for the first time it seemed as if the king and queen of loquacity had been rendered speechless.
"I think we should always do this instead of slamming doors."
He gently touched his forehead to hers, perhaps as a gesture of penitence for always being glib. God, she was beautiful. He'd never known eyes could be that shade of blue before—odd that he would notice that now.
Leaning against the door, resting, he couldn't help but notice how damn vulnerable she looked. David had never associated Maddie with fragility, not really—it was weird to think of, because the woman he knew, the woman he had driven around and argued with and wanted for so long, was anything but a shrinking violet.
"…You never told me why we're right for each other."
She was smiling, but smiling with tears in her eyes…how did women do that?
"I would've, Blondie, but I got a little—how they say—distracted." He playfully ran one hand down her side. "Besides, you told me to shut up."
"And is this how you plan on responding every time I tell you to shut up?"
"Mm, good idea," he began a trail of butterfly kisses down her neck. "You tell me to shut up a lot."
"David!" She shoved him away half-heartedly. "We need to talk about this!"
"We've been talking for three years, Maddie—I'm tired of talking." She gave him the look again. "Okay, okay—so I lied. I'm tired of talking about this. What I want is—"
"I know what you want," Maddie interrupted, and to his annoyance, she managed to deftly duck out from under his arms and back into the center of her office. "Sometimes…I sometimes think it's the only thing you want from me."
She had walked a couple of feet away and was no longer facing him, but the catch in Maddie's voice was unmistakable. For a few moments he merely stared at her back, not knowing what to do and angry at himself for it.
This time he did not wait for her to ask.
"Come here, Maddie." She fell into him, was crying into his cheap gray suit as though it were the most natural thing in the world—and despite the fact that he hated to see her cry, ever, he could not help but feel that it was. "It's alright, sweetheart."
"No, it is not!" was her muffled reply—she blew her nose into his breast pocket, as if to underscore the point. "I'm messing things up and I don't even know why. Why do I always do this?"
"No, on second thought, don't answer that. I don't want to know—I already know, you've told me before. It's because I'm insane."
"You're not insane."
"You're the one who told me I was insane in the first place!"
"When did I say that? I never said that."
"You did so."
"No, I said you were nuts. There's a big difference, Maddie."
"Enlighten me, Addison."
"'Nuts' is when a woman like you lets a guy like me make sexual overtures at her for three years and doesn't can his ass. Yeah, you're nuts. But that works for me."
"Please, David, tell it to me straight."
"You think we're not right for each other, that we don't think alike, that we'll make each other miserable till the end of time. Well, I've got news for you, sweetheart: you've been telling me that since day one, and you've been telling yourself that since day one, and there's only one person in this room you've managed to convince."
Maddie pulled back from him, gorgeous eyes betraying her natural skepticism—and something else, something…hopeful. He wondered if he was getting through to her at, if anything was penetrating that thick skull of hers—he loved her. He wasn't the kind of guy who fell in love with women who were indifferent—hell, she wasn't his type at all. He'd always gone for earthy brunettes, women who liked to drink and dance on the table and couldn't define the word pretension, much less embody it. Sure, they weren't challenging, but they were fun—and like most things in life, that was the endgame with women: fun. He'd never looked at women as a reason to grow or change—as far as David Addison was concerned, a man who changed himself for a woman was a bigger sucker than a dimestore lollypop and a Hoover vacuum combined.
Then he met her.
"Maybe we've driven each other a little nuts over the last few years. Maybe we've argued about some pretty stupid stuff—but we've argued about some pretty important stuff too. And we aren't miserable."
"How do you know I haven't been miserable?"
"I know you haven't been miserable, Madolyn Hayes, because when you're miserable, I'm miserable, and I sure as hell haven't been continuously miserable for the last 1095 days of my life."
"1096. It's a leap year."
"What are you so afraid of?" He gently cupped her cheek, wiping a stray tear off—Jesus, she even cries pretty. "You afraid I'm not going to stick around?"
"We both know you don't have the best track record of reliability, David—"
"When it comes to the things that matter, I do!" he said, a little more stridently than intended. Lowering his voice, he continued. "This isn't like sleeping off a hangover, Maddie—this is us. What do think the last three years have been to me?"
"Honestly? A job." He could not have looked more offended if he was trying. "Well, I pay you, don't I?"
"Not that well, Blondie."
"Alright, David—you want me to admit it? Fine. I admit it. I don't have agood reason for why we shouldn't be together. If there is a reason, it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with me. I don't trust anyone, I'm rigid, I'm neurotic and none of the employees like me for all of the above reasons—forgive me for thinking that we may be setting ourselves up for failure with this…thing we've got, whatever it is."
Collapsing on the couch, she grabbed the nearest overstuffed pillow too forcefully and nearly wrenched the decorative tassels clean off the corner of the cushion.
"I just hate…leaving anything up to chance."
He sunk down next to her on the sofa, not saying anything for a long moment, before…
"It was chance that brought you and me together…that worked out pretty good, didn't it?"
It was such a simple question, but asked with such raw honesty that she could not help but smile.
"It did…for the most part." She pretended not to notice the arm slowly creeping its way around her shoulder.
"So then you accept the premise that we are…for the most part…good together?"
"For the most part." There was a familiar touch of playful warning in her voice—one that she knew, if she had experience to go by, would be flat-out ignored.
Maddie found she wanted him to ignore it.
"And that things have been good for the last three years…for the most part?"
"For the most part, yes."
"Out of curiosity, which part is the most? I'm thinking the thigh."
And just like that, things were back to normal.
Maybe they'd danced around the problem—God knows it wasn't the first time, and it wouldn't be the last. There would be many more battles, more doors slammed, more faces slapped, more silent tears and hysterical giggles—he knew it and she knew it. Maddie and David never really resolved things—the most that could be said was that they each gave an inch every time, and so by the end of it they both believed the other had moved a foot in their direction.
Truthfully, the Addison-Hayes two-step was more of a stubborn stare down than a dance.
Sleeping together was just the beginning, as far as David was concerned. He wasn't waltzing off the floor without mastering the moves—and, as hard as she found it to believe, he didn't intend to waltz off it without her.
"I couldn't leave you even if I wanted to, you know that?"
"Oh? And why's that, Addison?"
She rested her head on his shoulder, remembering fondly the plane ride back from New York, and the caveat he'd placed on how long she could use it… "Only for the next twenty or thirty years…then I'm going to need it back."
"Think of what a ratings kill it'd be."